Conversation with a Vending Visionary
Responsibility for the M2M/IOT solution at SAP makes Suhas Uliyar a busy man. Last week he was immersed in the buzz at the Mobile World Congress (MWC); before, he was on the road at other trade shows and conferences. Quality time with his family is important. “When I finally had a free Saturday,” he says as we chat in between meetings at the MWC, “I took my nine-year old daughter to a museum. She wanted an ice cream, so we tried the vending machine in the lobby, only to find it out of order. Instead of enjoying the exhibit, we spent the next twenty minutes tracking down one that did work. Imagine how much more pleasant our museum experience would have been if that machine had simply communicated its breakdown to the operator so it could have been fixed in time for the weekend crowd!”
As he explains in the introduction to Beyond Connectivity: A Guidebook for Monetizing M2M in a Changing World, the traditional vending machine knows nothing about its customers. Contrary to a smart vending machine, it doesn’t know what’s been sold or if it’s broken. M2M technology is helping to transform vending machines from simple terminals into data points on a digital network that communicate with a central computer. Smart vending machines know when they need to be replenished. They can adjust prices based on outside temperature to run promotions on hot days. Smart vending can even help support regulations like a proposed United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that seeks to ban food with high fat, sugar and sodium from schools in America.
“Along with other smart trends in logistics, metering, asset management and urban matters, smart vending is a thriving example of the machine-to-machine (M2M) communication that’s at the core of the Internet of Things (IOT). The IOT is everywhere where people are using mobile and cloud technology to manage their data volumes and connect the different devices, machines, and appliances needed to run their business better than ever,” says Suhas. But managing this evolution requires three powerful components – an M2M software platform provider, a network management provider and mobile network operators, all working together to offer flexible, cloud based solutions for enterprises such as ice cream vendors seeking to tap the vast M2M opportunity pool.
One development Suhas and his team are particularly excited about is the new strategic SAP-Ericsson partnership announced by Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg and Sanjay Poonen, SVP Technology Solutions and Mobile Division, at a press conference at the MWC. The partnership enables SAP, the software platform provider, and Ericsson, the network management provider, to jointly market and sell cloud-based, machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions and services to enterprises via mobile network operators around the globe.
In the new world of vending, you’ll not only pay for your purchase with your phone, but you’ll top up the phone, order tickets to the soccer match and try the new mystery drink that the machine is offering to all adventurous customers that day. At the same time, vendors will be able to build relationships with their customers. If you ‘liked’ the mystery drink, the machine posts your preference to social networks, spreading the news. Loyalty programs and special offers can be managed through M2M. Knowing customer preferences will help the vendor provide the right mix of products and better manage shelf life and replenishment cycles. The machine operators in turn know when the machine needs to be serviced, and the telcos can expand their business models.
Thanks to dedicated people like Suhas and others driving such advances in technology, next time you try to get an ice cream at a museum, the experience should be a lot cooler!
Learn more about M2M and IOT:
The Massive M2M Business Opportunity: Part 1 by Sanjay Poonen
The Massive M2M Business Opportunity: Part 2 by Jens Amail
The Massive M2M Business Opportunity: Part 3 by Suhas Uliyar